Don’t think about a purple monkey in a suit.
I bet that is exactly what you thought about, right!? When a friend tells you not to think about something – say a break-up – more than likely, that is all your brain has room for. Remember when you were a kid and there was one TV show you were not allowed to watch (The Simpsons for me!)? Which one did you want to watch the most? The forbidden show of course!
These behaviors are not unlike what happens what you try to diet. Let’s say you tell yourself you can never eat brownies again; then tomorrow someone brings brownies into work. All day long, those brownies in the break room are literally calling your name. All you can think about is eating one of those brownies. Most people end up eating a brownie or two; vowing to start their no-brownie diet the next day.
Something similar happened to me when I did my intermittent fasting experiment these past 2 weeks. Since being fully recovered from my eating disorder, I really don’t think about food that often. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full; with the occasional over indulgence, of course. I am human. When I was in the height of my eating disorder, all I thought about was food. Today, as part of my eating disorder counseling, I ask my patients how much of their brain energy is used on thoughts of food and weight? Most of them tell me they are using somewhere around 90-95%. I was the same way; and I experienced some of these thoughts returning during my time doing intermittent fasting.
I have not done any professional research on this, but I believe once you have endured severe starvation, whether self-inflicted or not, you have a really hard time with food restriction later in life. When I did the ketogenic diet experiment a couple months ago; I had no problem at all. Essentially, this is because I could eat at whatever time I wanted; it was just the food choices that changed. And because the foods were all very high in fat, it was extremely satiating. With intermittent fasting; I was not supposed to eat until 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. and had to stop around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. This kind of restriction was extremely difficult for me; and thoughts of food were much more abundant. I wanted to eat breakfast, I was ravenous by 1:00 p.m., and I had a really hard time not eating after 6:00 p.m.
The one difference I did see with intermittent fasting was I felt and looked leaner in the morning. More than likely, I was eating less food overall due to the strict time window; however, I did not experience significant weight loss. I suppose, if you have a specific composition goal in mind, intermittent fasting can be beneficial. However; this is just another diet that, in my opinion, is not sustainable. In addition, I would be cautious about implementing intermittent fasting if you have a history of eating disorders or disordered eating, as it can be triggering to go back to old ways of restricting.
All in all, the experience was okay. I definitely could not do intermittent fasting forever. I like eating 3 meals a day with the occasional snack. I prefer to eat breakfast and definitely don’t want to feel guilty about eating some ice cream or popcorn after 6:00 p.m.
By now, I am sure you have all heard about the Australian woman, training for a bodybuilding competition, who died while on a high protein diet. If not, here is the article on cnn.com. There has been a lot of debate about high protein diets since this woman’s death; and I have had many clients asking how much protein they really need?
There is no need to be alarmed if you are eating more protein than the recommended 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. The woman that died from the high protein diet had a rare disorder called urea cycle disorder. A healthy urea cycle process involves a series of biochemical steps in which nitrogen, a waste product of protein metabolism, is removed from the blood and converted to urea. The urea is transferred into the urine and removed from the body. In urea cycle disorders, there is a mutation that results in a deficiency of the enzymes responsible for removing ammonia from the blood; which causes nitrogen accumulation in the form of ammonia, a highly toxic substance, resulting in hyperammonemia (elevated blood ammonia). Ammonia can then reach the brain through the blood, where it can cause irreversible brain damage, coma, or death. Please remember, this woman died due to her disorder; which caused the protein she was eating to not be metabolized correctly.
So, how much protein does a healthy person need? Personally, I am a fan of higher protein diets. Many dietitians may not agree with me, but the research just does not lie.
My recommendation is to spread protein out throughout the day, aiming for 20-30 grams per meal and 10-15 grams per snack, especially if you are active. Don’t be scared to consume protein if you are an active person – it is needed!
The first week of my intermittent fasting experiment is done. It was difficult to say the least. Due to my commute and travel schedule, I was on the road every day this past week. Most days ended around 6 or 7 p.m., which made eating between 12-6 or 2-8 very challenging.
I was able to delay eating until 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. without a problem. Where I struggled most was not eating after 6 or 7 p.m. I knew this was going to be challenging for me, because of my schedule. Therefore, this week I practiced more of a 15-16 hour fast, instead of the 18 hours that I had originally planned. I am going to continue working on it this week, but here is what I have learned so far:
Just a reminder: I am not doing this experiment for weight loss purposes. In fact, I am not even weighing myself (I never do). I am simply interested in testing this style of eating against some of the misconceptions and opinions out there. I will keep working on it this week and let you guys know what happens!
Allison Tropf, MS, RD, CSSD
Allison is a Sports Dietitian in Michigan. She enjoys helping others reach their nutrition and fitness goals through reliable and trustworthy recommendations.
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